So, who am I, and what am I offering?

Basically, I’m a riding coach. But, I like to turn things on their head,
re-examine everything, figure it out, and then work out how to teach it –
better and clearer.

I have ridden most of my life, and often thought something just didn’t feel
right, and spent many years going to different trainers, trying different
saddles, different disciplines, working through injuries (and pain
sometimes). When I discovered Mary Wanless and her Ride with Your Mind, a
lot of pieces fell into place, particularly after spending several months
with her and Karin Major at Overdale (Mary’s UK base).

Now, several more years and a lot of experimenting down the line, I have
settled into the rhythm of my own methods and teaching (along with Ride with
Your Mind) – and an eclectic mix it is. But for me and a lot of riders, it
works.

Through being injured, recovering from some of those injuries and making
compromises to deal with others, I have had to experiment with what will
help my body and what won’t. During my search for the ultimate exercise /
sport, I have been lucky enough to come across some pretty remarkable
trainers, some in the horse industry, several not. As a passionate scuba
diver, keen (but sadly untalented) capoeira player and very occasional rock
climber, I have had to learn how to use my body more efficiently, breathe
better, find balance and strength, become more present, work with rhythm,
cadence and awareness – all things that should be in our riding minds, but
are often lacking. By working with some of the very best in their fields, I
have been lucky enough to bring other sports into my riding – and so, into
my teaching too. I have also been in a position where I have had to have
treatment from body workers – physiotherapists, osteopaths, acupuncturists
and massage therapists, and all have opened up new trains of thought.

Someone told me once that we can’t teach anyone how to ride. Sure, we can
get them up on the horse, show them the basics of starting, stopping,
turning, but we can’t teach feel, empathy, balance. As instructors, we can
open the doors, but our pupils and their bodies have to go out and figure
out how. Just the same as parents can’t teach their children to walk, and
dance teachers can’t teach their student to dance.

If I asked you to describe the taste of an apple, could you? It’s sweet, but
so is chocolate. It’s crunchy, but so is a biscuit. It can be bitter, so is
a lemon. It’s juicy – so is an orange. How can I tell what it is like to bite
into an apple until I bite into one myself? In the same way, each rider has
to create their own muscle memory, about what it is like to ride a horse –
what it feels like to rise on the correct trot diagonal or canter on the
correct lead.

But we have all come from somewhere to arrive at the point we are at. If you
can sit in a chair, you have enough core to hold your body. If you can walk
across the road and step up the kerb without falling on your face, you can
judge a stride when you jump. If you have stood on a boat in the sea, on a
paddle board, on a surf board, on a moving bus or train, you know about
making adjustments to your balance to remain as still as possible on a
moving surface. The list is endless. We all have skills that allow us to
come into riding partially educated from the beginning… Make sense?

I have been lucky / mad enough to have had a go at a fair mixture of
“stuff”, and from that, I try to draw a start line where I can meet my
pupils part way. From riding elephants and camels, zip-lining, jet-skiing,
hiking active volcanos, paddle boarding, kayaking, belly and pole dancing,
as well as the aforementioned diving, climbing and capoeira, I can often
find some common ground with pupils, and that is our start. As Mary says –
how can anyone give you directions to get to Australia until we know if you
are starting your journey from USA or France?